The US Department of Agriculture reported outbreaks of a highly lethal type of bird flu in commercial flocks in Maryland and South Dakota over the weekend, adding to concerns that wild birds are spreading the disease across the country.
Farmers are ordered to kill their flocks after the disease is detected, and importing countries including Mexico, China and Korea have imposed state-specific import restrictions in response.
The bird flu outbreak is the worst since 2015, when nearly 50 million birds, mostly turkeys and egg-laying chickens in the US Midwest, were killed. It comes at a time when food prices are skyrocketing due to labor shortages, supply-chain problems and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a key wheat and corn exporter.
The disease is already widespread in Europe and affecting Africa, Asia and Canada. The United States is the world’s largest producer and second-largest exporter of poultry meat, according to the U.S. government.
USDA reported the H5N1 strain in wild birds in the Carolinas earlier this year. The strain can be passed on to humans, though U.S. officials said there is a low risk to people.